Writer and surf historian, Matt Warshaw, is putting together what should be an amazing interactive website, The Encyclopedia of Surfing. After years of research, sifting through old surf mags, and talking with some of our sport’s icons, Matt is taking the encyclopedia into the 21st century by going digital. It will be a fully searchable and constantly updated database stocked with tons of photos, video clips, and links. It will also include all the archive material, plus a rundown on what’s happening in surfing right now. But Matt needs your help to bring this gift to surfing a reality. Get involved by helping Matt and his team out on Kickstarter and read the interview below to find out a bit more about the project.
This seems like an amazing gift to surfing. Why did you take on this project? And what is your goal?
Took up the project in 1999 almost as a challenge; to see if I could actually write an encyclopedia. Going online — well for starters, it pretty much has to go online or die. Reference books are toast. I’ve got this incredible two-volume Oxford English Dictionary here on my desk, but its pretty much just for show. I do my research on the computer like everybody. The other thing about going online is now I can update the material as needed. Daily, probably. Even better, I can go nuts with photos and clips and everything else. The book is great, but when I look at it, it’s like damn that is a LOT of words and barely any photos.
How long has the processes taken? And what kind of hurdles did you have to overcome to uncover all the facts about surfing’s history?
In 2000 I bought a copy of Filemaker Pro, then spent a year going through all my surf mags, databasing everything. That was actually pretty gnarly. Like the most boring work you can imagine. From there, is was pretty writing 1,500 short little articles, anywhere from 50 to 1500 words. Nathan Myers and Marcus Sanders and myself, sitting in my spare bedroom/office in the Sunset District, eating pretzels and writing entries. As for uncovering facts. I don’t know. You stack up five tons of magazines and books, set it on fire, and sift through the remains for the stuff that doesn’t burn. And you still end up getting stuff wrong.
It seems like there are some different stories out there for specific events that have happened in our sport’s history. How do you figure out who’s story is fact and who’s is fiction?
Different ways. Some people you learn are super reliable, and some aren’t. Nick Carroll was always my go-to guy in Australia. He was one of the unsung heros of the book for sure. What else? We made a lot of phone calls. Or Nathan did, I should say. I’m always a bit suspect of anybody’s recollections from 30, 40, 50 years ago, but sometimes you go with that. Or you go with the magazine account of things, even though the mags, then and now, are notoriously flakey on straight-up reportage.At some point, you just hold up the evidence and make a call. And like I say, there will still be mistakes.
What does it take to be considered a surf historian?
Makes me sound old and boring as fuck. And I use words like “fuck” a lot, in print, in interviews, on Twitter, because I’ve got a phobia of being thought of as old and boring.
You have set this website up as a non-profit. What is the benefit of going that route?
Good will from the surf industry, who will eventually have to back this thing, plus it makes it easier for me to get photos and vids from all the right people. Fundraising — that’s a big part of it too, and a nonprofit has big advantages there, too. I need to give a shout out to Lewis Samuels for the idea; he suggested the nonprofit thing.
What can people expect to find when they visit the upcoming interactive website?
Hundreds and hundreds of photos of Teddy, my two-year-old. Plus a lot of surf stuff.
How can people get involved and help out?
We’re gunning for 20K with this Kickstarter campaign, but seriously, we could use double or triple that. I need to hire three or four desk monkeys to help put all the pieces together. Even at minimum wage, it’s going to add up fast.
To help out with this great project, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1391193483/encyclopedia-of-surfing